Honor-Shame and Judges

I don’t want to surprise anyone out there, but sometime judges make mistakes, big mistakes. And I’m not talking about questionable legal reasoning, but human errors that have unacceptable ramifications for our clients. This might range from a judge who fails to pay attention to an important factual detail, neglects to include something basic in a decision, or in the case currently taking my attention, disregards the law in order to give a decision they thought would save everyone time and energy in the future.

The question then is how they extricate themselves from the awkward situation where it’s clear they have made a mistake, but it’s a blow to their professional egos to simply admit it and move forward.

As with most of us, admitting to an error as soon as we catch it is probably the easiest route to correcting the error, but we’re often blocked by considerations of ego and shame that prevent us from taking that route. And, as with most of us, once we fail to take that route, we usually exacerbate a problem that could have been rectified by a simple admission of our error.

I’m currently in what I would call an ego-tussle with a judge, and have a hearing on in a few days, so it will be interesting to see how he extricates himself from this situation. And yes, it is a fact and not simply my opinion that he made a mistake; he issued an ex parte restraining order against my client (means my client wasn’t called to a hearing, the order was given simply on the basis of what the ex-spouse claimed), and failed to limit it in time, egregiously ignoring two very clear statutes.

I pushed for a hearing, which by law should have been set automatically. While the judge finally set the hearing, he has threatened to hit me with court costs if he finds against my client. All this while ignoring very clear statute and case law.

The dynamic is interesting. The judge is very smart, there is no way he doesn’t know that I have the law on my side. I think that there were elegant ways of getting out of this awkward and somewhat embarrassing situation. He probably should have set a hearing as soon as I asked for it, spared me the threat of hitting anyone with court costs. We could have all cooperated in salvaging everyone’s egos by being quiet on the violations of the law, pretending they didn’t happen and focusing on the issues at hand. At this point, he’s created an unnecessary struggle of prestige which serves no one.

I’m gearing up for the hearing next Monday, should be interesting to see how it plays out.

For a humorous take on honor-shame and judges, take a look at this:

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